Every pastor and every church wants men (and women too) with a heart to serve.
What they do not want is a little cluster of ingrown power-brokers who protect their turf, see deacon status as a recognition of their importance, and elevate their decisions as law for pastor and congregation.
In the monthly deacons meeting, one of the newer men said, “Last week in the church conference, someone made a motion from the floor and it was adopted. That’s not right. These matters must come to the deacons first, then to the church.”
One of the veterans said, “My brother, this is a Baptist church. This congregation can vote to do anything it pleases and it does not have to ask our approval.”
Thank you, Deacon Atwell Andrews. As the pastor of that bunch, I loved that.
In a deacons meeting, a shriveled little nay-sayer looked across the way at his pastor and said, “The Bible says the deacons are to handle the business of the church.”
I said, “My friend, I cannot wait for you to show me that in the Scripture.”
He said, “It’s right there in Acts 6. ‘Look you out from among you seven men whom we may put in charge of this business.'”
It was all I could do not to laugh. (You can tell this man and I had a history.)
I said, “The word translated ‘business’ there means a ‘lack,’ or a ‘need.’ The disciples told the church to select 7 men to fill a need that was going lacking.”
I wish I could say this convinced him. All it did was anger him that his pastor had disagreed with him.
Pastors sometimes say to me, “My church has no deacons. And I love it that way!”
I know what they mean. They do not mean they have no servant-minded members. They do not mean no one has a heart for working and helping.
What they mean is there is no organization of a small group of men who see themselves as something special, draw the lines defining their elite status tighter and tighter (by adding to scriptural qualifications on who can be a deacon), and insist they be granted great respect and authority.
No pastor needs that.
What pastors need is helpers.
What pastors need is men–and women too–who are willing to do “whatever it takes” to make the church stronger by ministering to hurting people.
What pastors need is friends, encouragers, workers, partners, and brethren in Christ.
What pastors do not need is obstacles, barriers, and hurdles to overcome in doing their work.
What pastors do not need is a little group who set themselves up as a board of directors for the church and expect their word to carry great weight.
What churches need is workers; what they do not need is dead weight.
What churches need is godly and mature encouragers; what they do not need is an elite bunch who make recommendations to the church which they expect to be voted unanimously, automatically, enthusiastically. And, of course, obediently.
What churches need is wise men and women of God who want only to bless others; what they do not need is a debate squad that fights over every issue. I bear in my body the marks of such fights. Pastors receive the collateral damage sometimes.
What churches need is sweet-spirited laymen to bless the church and encourage the ministers; what they do not need is a group who would boss the pastor and staff around but will not stand up to one of their own body who bullies them. Ask any pastor.
When, over my objection, our deacons once went to the congregation with a poorly-thought out recommendation and had their collective head handed to them, a deacon officer murmured to me, “This church does not support its deacons.” I said, “Neither do the deacons support their pastor. I told you not to do that, and you did it anyway.” If that got through to him, I couldn’t tell.
In one church, a banker is the congregational bully. One night recently the man and his adult son called on the pastor. The son manhandled the preacher–grabbing him by the collar, pushing him around–while the older man threatened him. “I’ve run off the last 6 preachers in a row,” the man said, “and you’ll be number 7.” When the pastor told some of the deacons what had happened, they were alarmed–well, that’s something!–and promised the preacher they would never leave him alone in the church at any time. “But,” the pastor told me, “they are afraid of the man and will not stand up to him.”
Now, it’s possible to have bullies in churches without their being deacons. These cancers have a way of ingrafting themselves into the life of the congregation without being elected to anything. However, in my experience if a church has a bully, nine times out of ten, he’s a deacon.
I say that to our shame.
Lest anyone feel a need to remind me, I am all too aware that some pastors are bullies, some preachers are the problem in the church, and every church needs strong members who will face up to him for the health of the church.
Nothing about this is simple or cut-and-dried.
“Unless the Lord build the house, they labor in vain who build it” (Psalm 127:1).
Where a church has a deacon board that has become ingrown, intent on its power and authority, I suggest to godly laymen in the congregation that to be rejected by such a bunch is a badge of honor. You can do everything you would do as a deacon–serve the congregation, help the pastors–without being elected and ordained and having to attend all those meetings.
No one has to ordain a servant.
Just go do it.